Analysis & Opinions - ArcticToday

What the Biden Administration Can Do to Help Build a More Just and Resilient Arctic

| Jan. 13, 2021

The federal government must allow community voices to drive infrastructure investment and conservation in the North.

The Arctic is a target-rich policy environment for an incoming presidential administration set on addressing climate change and equity issues. Not only is it by far the fastest-warming region on earth, exhibiting some of the most dramatic impacts, but it is also home to some of the most under-served and climate-vulnerable communities in America. On the international front the bar is low; a new administration that acknowledges the climate crisis will be seen as a serious and welcome partner by the other seven Arctic countries.

The Biden administration can jointly address climate change and equity by focusing on building the resilience of Arctic communities. "Resilience" is not just another buzzword, or a synonym for climate adaptation. Rather, it describes the enabling conditions and quality of relationships between interconnected social and ecological systems that allow them to best recover and thrive through crises or shocks. Indigenous knowledge and decades of research show that fostering these conditions makes for more resilient communities. For example, communities that are empowered to make decisions and that are supported with critical infrastructure and leadership are better able to withstand stress and uncertainty.

Unfortunately, the enabling conditions for resilience read like a laundry list of critical Arctic gaps: health and safety infrastructure, low-cost renewable energy systems, youth leadership training, fast broadband, food and water security, and innovative financing for public infrastructure. Addressing these gaps is essential — but that will only be sustainable if new policies also protect Arctic ecosystems and elevate the role of Indigenous knowledge holders in decisions that affect Arctic Indigenous communities.

The Biden administration can have a dramatic positive impact in fostering Arctic resilience by considering the following policy actions....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Clement, Joel.“What the Biden Administration Can Do to Help Build a More Just and Resilient Arctic.” ArcticToday, January 13, 2021.